Community-led campaign continues its vaccine outreach to Hispanic communities
The COVID-19 vaccine campaign “Por Mi Familia” or For My Family has seen some success in overcoming vaccine barriers in its home state of Wisconsin.
Spearheaded by the nonprofit advocacy organization Forward Latino, "Por Mi Familia" focuses on addressing myths about the vaccine in a bilingual and bicultural way. Campaign media features trusted individuals from Latino, Spanish-speaking and immigrant communities to help spread the word about the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine.
The organizers in Wisconsin contacted some Iowa community leaders to see if they’d follow in their footsteps and participate in the campaign after Forward Latino earned a $155,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Toni Robertson was one of the people who said yes. She’s the vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in Davenport. She said according to county health officials, the first clinic was successful based on attendance. Which, Robertson said, is a good sign, because Iowa health officials haven't organized a statewide approach to reach these communities.
“I personally don't really see that it really has opened any doors wide to bring in the immigrant community," she said.
Forward Latino national president Darryl Morin agreed with Robertson's assessment. When the organization first evaluated the state's outreach efforts to Hispanic communities, they didn't find anything statewide.
"What we saw was there was really no unified approach to reaching out to the Hispanic community. And efforts and outreach really varied from county to county," Morin said. "And by being able to bring together this unified message across the counties, etc. and partner with local community organizations, as well as the local county health departments, it's really not only helped strengthen the message, it helps to get the message out into every nook and cranny of the community."
The community-led clinics for the campaign are offered for people seeking their first, second or booster shot if eligible. They use the vaccine produced by Pfizer.
Morin acknowledged the grant was limited, so the "Por Mi Familia" clinics are currently only active in eight counties that have higher populations of Hispanic and Latino individuals. These include Polk, Woodbury, Scott, Muscatine, Pottawattamie, Marshall, Tama and Buena Vista. According to Forward Latino's evaluations, about 70 percent of the state's Latino populations live in these counties.
Other virtual outreach, like the videos and social media posts, are available statewide.
The clinics do not require an official ID, immigration status or proof of insurance. They also have bilingual staff.
This, Robertson said, is very important to offer for immigrant communities.
"Some of them are worried about their status, and that it will, you know, raise red flags and bring attention to them. So, they're reluctant about going to the public places where they do have to fill out paperwork and show ID and residency. And they just don't feel safe there," she said.
Morin listed this aspect as one of the reasons why "Por Mi Familia" has seen success so far. That, and addressing hesitancy by dispelling myths and disinformation about the vaccine. He shared what it was like to bring his 13-year-old son to get vaccinated.
"Okay, now what's next?" he remembered his son asking.
The woman who administered the shot told him, "Well, that's it."
Morin concluded: "And he just looked at me and said, 'Really? This is what everybody's making such a big deal over?'"
Both Robertson and Morin noted studies that found Latinos, and people of color, are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. They're more likely to be hospitalized and even die of the virus than white individuals.
"This is no joking matter. We knew it was something that we need to take on, and really educate the community in a way that nobody's reached out to them before to make sure that they were keeping themselves and their families safe," Morin said.
According to state data, there have been 3,490,077 doses administered as of last week. Approximately 56.4 percent of the state that is fully vaccinated (two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, one of Johnson & Johnson).
"Por Mi Familia" vaccine clinics will continue in the eight counties where it's active. LULAC Davenport will have another clinic on Dec. 5 and has the capacity to continue hosting as long as there is community need.
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